Adams Marsch Leeds v Chelsea

Major League Soccer alumni succeeding in Europe’s top leagues is no new phenomenon, but the manner of Leeds United beating Chelsea last weekend was arguably at a different level.

That argument was made on Extratime while discussing Sunday’s 3-0 win during the nascent 2022-23 English Premier League season, in which two US men’s national team players — homegrown stars of recent MLS seasons — put in man of the match-caliber showings.

They were Philadelphia Union product Brenden Aaronson, the scorer of his first EPL goal, and New York Red Bulls product Tyler Adams. Former New York City FC standout and No. 1 SuperDraft pick Jack Harrison scored as well, and ex-CF Montréal and New York manager Jesse Marsch oversaw it all.

“It’s important to understand the context of this being sort of another milestone on the growth of the league, on the ability of MLS to more and more become a part of the global soccer hierarchy as a league that sort of filters players to the very top of the game in Europe,” Doyle posited. “I don’t think there’s much argument that EPL and LaLiga are levels above just about everything else, including the Bundesliga right now. It felt big in that way.

“But it’s just another stop on the trip. It’s not the endpoint, it’s not the goal.”

How MLS is impacting Premier League side Leeds United

Marsch, now in his first full season, helped stave off relegation last spring upon taking over for Marcelo Bielsa, keeping Leeds in the top flight.

Then Marsch’s MLS/American network proved fruitful in the transfer market, bringing in Aaronson ($30 million from Austria’s RB Salzburg) and Adams ($24 million from Germany’s RB Leipzig) from his past managerial stops. Those signings have helped Leeds soften the blow of losing England international Kalvin Phillips to Manchester City and Brazilian international Raphina to FC Barcelona, two of the world’s biggest clubs.

Might other clubs follow in their footsteps when recruiting?

“It feels like it’s not, okay MLS is a jumping-off point and then when people get to other levels they forget about it,” said Extratime’s David Gass. “Now the secret is that they know how it works and they’re able to bring talent out of it.

“So for Jesse to stay up and then his offseason to be built around bringing in players that he knows well and has obviously worked with before but also he knows that they can compete at that level, coming out of MLS — I think that’s sort of what opens up doors now to other people.“

There’s also a risk with all this, Extratime’s Caleb Carr contended. But if it pans out, even more doors may open for coaches and not just players — challenging stigmas that previous trailblazers like now-Toronto FC coach Bob Bradley perhaps faced while briefly overseeing Swansea City’s time in the EPL.

“The coach piece, to me, is the longer-term story of what is happening there with Jesse,” Carr said. “I think that's really exciting because we haven't seen that happen before and then I think the way that he's done it, to go out and get some of his guys, American players? I was like, 'That's a risk. To stay up and then to bring in and double-down more on American players? If that doesn't turn well for you, then it's a quicker trip potentially out.'”

For more Extratime analysis, check out their latest episode here.